Rooftop refuge: crisis in Pakistan worsens

16/08/2010

 Pakistan Flood News Story

Up to 20 million people have been affected by the flooding of the 3,200km-long Indus River, which continues to rage uncontrollably into Pakistan’s southern economic heartland.

Catholic Mission, the Australian arm of the Catholic Church's global mission aid agency, is appealing to the public for help in providing disaster relief in the area.

So far the vast wave of water has swept all before it, flooding more than 700,000 hectares of land and ruining millions of tonnes of newly harvested crops. Tens of thousands of homes have been flooded, with the only escape for the occupants to sit on rooftops hoping for rescue. Meanwhile the monsoonal rains show no sign of abatement.

Australian-born Columban Missionary Father Robert McCulloch, due to return to mission in Hyrabad early this week, has told Catholic Mission that Pakistan has never seen a disaster on this scale.

“The loss of life and housing is the immediate concern of disaster relief, but the greater tragedy for Pakistan is the loss of a bumper harvest of wheat which has been utterly destroyed by the flooding,” Fr Robert said.

Unlike Australia, where grain is stored in silos, the newly harvested grain is left covered in the fields before transportation. All of this is underwater now.”

Fr Robert anticipated that famine will follow the flood.

“The long term consequences for the people will be devastating.”

'Our place is with the people'

Columban Missionary Father Robert McCulloch
Columban Missionary Father Robert McCulloch.
Father Robert is Chairman of the Administrative Council of St Elizabeth’s Hospital, the Catholic hospital run by the Diocese of Latifabad in Hyderabad.

He said that larger health issues will emerge almost immediately due to the water-borne pollution.

The Indus River is the source of drinking water for millions of people. The monsoon rains are still falling. We have just suffered an epidemic of hepatitis and now the humid weather will bring swarms of malaria-carrying mosquitoes.”

Father Robert said the housing of ordinary people will not withstand the flood waters.

“The only place for families to take refuge is on the rooftops in the rain. I also pray for the welfare of the Haris (tenant farmers) who work lands along the river. They have nowhere to go and are entirely exposed to the open air. Their only hope of evacuation is if their landlords organise it.”

Despite the devastation in Pakistan, Father Robert said he would be returning to Hydrabad as soon as possible.

“We Columbans are not fair weather priests; our place is to be with the people no matter what. We ask that you pray for the people of Pakistan in this terrible time and pray that the generosity of world aid that will come into the country should conform to principles of equity and justice. The ordinary people have so very little, and the fear is that donations will not go to where the need is greatest.”

For more information on how you can support Catholic Mission's relief effort, visit www.catholicmission.org.au or phone 1800 257 296.


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